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Configuration management tools can help you track and manage changes to systems within your infrastructure, making sure that your software and hardware runs reliably and smoothly. As we’ve said in other blogs about DevOps tools and best practices, often the tools are not the problem when organizations are rolling out changes — it’s the “why.”
In this blog, we’ll take a step back to examine the “why” to better support your search though different configuration management tools. There are a lot of tools out there, but it’s important to know why you’re searching in the first place, and what your organizational needs are. Let the hunt begin!
Table of Contents:
Configuration management tools track and control changes that are made to systems and environments — hardware or software — to make sure that quality and compliance is maintained.
Configuration management can broadly cover the different kinds of regular management that happens in your environment, such as:
Even the term “configuration management” is a little misleading — it can refer to many different, sometimes very different, kinds of tasks that you need to perform in your environment. From updates to file access to compliance, the way that you configure your infrastructure from the smallest task to the largest requirement can make a huge difference.
When you look even further, yes, even the word “tool” is misleading. Under the umbrella of configuration management, you will find automation, compliance, and collaboration. The right configuration management tool isn’t just a tool, it’s a set of actions that can be performed under a holistic set of goals for your environment.
Your options for configuration management tools are vast and varied. It's not always clear what's the best option for managing configurations in your infrastructure.
Here are some of the most popular examples of configuration management tools:
A list is fine, but let's make it a bit easier to narrow your search. Let's break out configuration management tools by what's right for your IT infrastructure.
If your organization is only deployed in data centers OR cloud, or if you're only managing a small number of nodes, you might find it easier to get started with a simple configuration management tool. Consider trying:
If your IT environment is already too big for simpler tools (high node count, compliance requirements, cross-deployed infrastructure, etc.), consider the options below:
The options above can give you an idea of the landscape, but they shouldn't be taken as prescriptive. It can't be said enough that the “best” configuration management tool is the one that meets your specific needs.
Here are a few factors to consider when choosing a configuration management tool.
How large and complex are the systems that you need to manage? Are you working within a cloud environment, on-prem, or a hybrid of both? How many users do you manage, and how large is the team that is managing them?
The price of a configuration management tool that handles one task, like version control for instance, will vary from a configuration management platform that will handle everything you need to configure within your environment. We’ll explore more about configuration platforms in the next section.
Do you need configuration management to help with compliance? To automate tasks? To update or patch systems? Not every configuration management tool will be able to support every kind of task — it’s important to approach your search with this in mind.
You’ll want to ask yourself:
This is where the search for a single tool becomes complicated — can one tool accomplish every requirement that your configuration management plan needs?
Enter the configuration platform, which encompasses multiple tools.
Configuration management tools set out to accomplish a set of tasks — but what if you need a solution that does more than just configuration? What if you are looking for a tool that also includes visibility into changes being made and automated alerts to let you know how a change could impact your environment?
A configuration platform covers more than specific tasks.
A configuration management platform integrates multiple tools and capabilities for managing configuration and automation tasks across an entire IT environment.
A platform includes infrastructure discovery, asset management, policy enforcement, and reporting and analytics. Configuration management platforms are designed to provide a more holistic view of an organization's IT environment and enable more comprehensive automation and management capabilities.
Puppet Enterprise is an example of a configuration management platform, since it includes features such as:
While configuration management tools are focused on specific areas of functionality, a configuration management platform provides a more comprehensive set of capabilities across an entire IT environment.
Puppet Enterprise is more than just a configuration management tool — we call it a platform for a reason.
You can customize your Puppet Enterprise to work exactly how you need it to with Continuous Delivery for Puppet Enterprise and Puppet Comply — all different pieces of a larger platform that can help you holistically manages automation, compliance, change management, and other tasks across your environment while providing broad visibility and scalability. It’s this level of robust “can-do” management that really makes it more than a tool.
We’d love to show you what we mean with a free demo of Puppet Enterprise along with the different features that are specific to your needs:
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Senior Director of Product Marketing, Puppet by Perforce
Robin Tatam (CISM CPFA CTSP CTMA PCI-P) is a Product Marketer at Puppet by Perforce, where he promotes the benefits of managing compliance using Puppet. Prior to his role with Puppet, Robin worked as a Security Evangelist, and was a globally recognized SME and five-time IBM Champion. Robin also loves travel and cultural exploration, is an accomplished photographer, and considers himself an amateur mixologist.